Born with a daredevil spirit, Kaely never enjoyed sitting. She gravitated toward gymnastics, first taking lessons at the local YMCA and later at a gymnastics academy. By high school, she was competing in the sport.
High school was a milestone for Kaely’s future. Her school would close for two weeks each February, during which time students were required to get a job or a two-week internship. After getting stuck running a copy machine during her junior year, Kaely was complaining to her mother that she didn’t want to do anything boring with her break.
Either joking or out of frustration, Kaely’s mom suggested she join the circus. The seed was planted.
With the approval of her publisher mom and NASA physicist dad, Kaely passed on Wellesley College, instead heading to Torino, Italy, where she enrolled in a circus arts school. In addition to learning the trapeze, Kaely is skilled at acrobatics, juggling, riding a unicycle and walking a tightrope.
After seven months in Italy, she went to Paris to attend the Academie Fratellini, a world-renowned professional circus school. Kaely was the first American student accepted into the program.
“I’ve been able to travel the world, learn classical languages and meet people from very different cultures,” she said. “I feel like I am winning. I’ve been given this gift and my mom made it all possible.”
And her career has allowed her to travel all over Europe. Kaely was in Montreal, Canada, about to embark on a tour to India when Ringling Brothers approached her to tryout for the circus.
“I’ve seen shows all over the world, and I really like this show,” the trapeze artist said. “Elektra brings the electricity to the show.”
Plus, the role is affording Kaely the opportunity to see America. “I’ve traveled abroad, but this is my first real chance to see this country,” she said.
Kaely’s dream job requires that she flip and tumble 30 to 40 feet above the ground. “There’s so much adrenaline pumping through your body,” she said.
While the trapeze requires physical strength and agility, Kaely said “a lot of it is mental – being smart and making good decisions in the air.”
She swings using a 30-pound trapeze, which allows more airtime but requires additional strength to keep it moving.
“It’s very different from competitive gymnastics,” Kaely explained. “There, you have a team and plenty of rules and you have to strictly follow those rules or you lose points. But the circus world awards you points for individuality. Here, you are encouraged to be unique.”
Kaely loves the attention her dream job attracts, but is a realist when it comes to career longevity.
“I have friends in their 40s who are still doing gymnastics,” she said. “It really depends on who you are and how you maintain your body. I expect to have a few more years on the trapeze.”
Afterward, she hopes to go to college, where she’ll probably pursue a degree in the medical field. Prior to going abroad to pursue a circus gig, Kaely was a trained EMT working on ambulances.
She continues to volunteer on ambulances in the various cities “Built to Amaze!” visits.
“Like I said, I have a hard time sitting still,” she said, laughing. “Besides, it’s one more opportunity to meet people in the community.”
Locals can meet Kaely and the entire “Built to Amaze!” cast at a free all access pre-show, which begins one hour prior to each show. The audience – young and old alike – is invited to come onstage, meet the performers and learn to juggle, hip dance or try on custom costumes.
The Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey’s “Built to Amaze!” runs June 11-14 at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center. Tickets are $10 to $40, and are available at the civic center Box Office or through Ticketmaster. •